Delighted to have Leigh Russell on the blog today to tell us a bit about her latest literary venture: Rachel’s Story! First a little about this book and the author.
About the Book
In a world where food is scarce, the government rules and ordinary people only exist to serve, can there ever be happiness?
As a child, living in a post-apocalyptic world, the only person Rachel can rely on is her mother. But when her mother is killed, Rachel is initiated into The Programme where selected young girls are medicated to make them fertile.
Fearing for her future, Rachel escapes. But freedom comes at a price and Rachel must navigate through a terrifying landscape of persecution to survive.
What is on the other side of the city wall?
Will the repressive government hunt her down?
One thing is certain. Rachel’s world will never be the same again…
About the Author
Leigh Russell has written twenty-four novels, and her Geraldine Steel crime series has sold over a million copies. In addition to her crime series featuring detective Geraldine Steel, Leigh has written two trilogies and two stand alone psychological thrillers. Rachel’s Story is her first dystopian novel. Leigh chairs the judging panel for the Crime Writers Association’s prestigious Debut Dagger Award, and is a Consultant Fellow for the Royal Literary Fund.
Although crimes in the real world appal those of us who are neither criminals nor psychopaths, crime fiction is phenomenally popular. There are many reasons for this. Crime fiction offers readers thrills and suspense, characters we can either root for or loathe, and a sense of satisfaction when order restored at the end of the books. That said, crime fiction gives us more than simple stories about goodies and baddies. The genre invites us to examine our own lives and the issues we face in society.
After writing twenty-three crime novels, including fifteen books published so far in my Geraldine Steel series, I recently wandered into a different genre. It’s difficult to say why. My career in crime writing has not come to an end. There are at least another five books scheduled with No Exit Press, who publish my Geraldine Steel books, and I have plenty of ideas for more. There was no reason for me to change direction in my writing, yet somehow I found myself writing a dystopian novel.
RACHEL’S STORY is set in a post apocalyptic world that has evolved in the aftermath of a pandemic that almost destroyed all life on earth. Food, which is scarce, is controlled by the ruling Council, who are protected by an army of formidable guards. As a consequence, their authority is absolute, and strict laws are mercilessly enforced. Ordinary citizens are regarded as expendable. When her mother is killed, Rachel is initiated into The Programme where selectedyoung girls are medicated to make them fertile. Fearing for her future, Rachel manages to escape from The Facility where she and a cohort of girls are being trained to please men. But freedom comes at a price, as she learns when she joins a community of outcasts struggling to survive in the desert beyond the city walls.
Just like crime fiction, which addresses issues in society as well as telling a particular story, dystopian fiction is a literature of ideas, presenting more than specific scenarios. Dystopian novels invite us to contemplate our own world and the challenges we face as individuals, as a society, and as a species. In narrating the experience of a single protagonist, Rachel’s Story also considers a variety of themes including the abuse of power, the role of women in society, addiction and betrayal, which are relevant to our lives today.
Some dystopian authors deliberately set out to examine contemporary views and customs, through the medium of a story. It is well known that George Orwell wrote his iconic novel 1984 with the conscious intention of warning readers about the dangers of communism. In a similar vein, Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale in response to the commonly held view that a totalitarian government ‘can’t happen here’ in the West. She explains that Gilead shows a society ‘in which people have got too much power and then start abusing it. But that is human behavior’.
In addition to George Orwell’s 1984 and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, John Wyndham’s The Crysalids, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, PD James’ Children of Men, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange, and Nevil Shute’s On the Beach are just some of the classic dystopian books that have made a deep impression on me. These are all shocking books that jolt us out of our complacency and force us to question where we are heading. In reading these iconic books, and others in the genre, I was never aware of any conscious desire to write a dystopian novel of my own. But perhaps Margaret Atwood was right when she wrote, ‘Once you’ve been intrigued by a literary form, you always have a secret yen to write an example of it yourself.’
Rachel’s Story was published on 6th April 2021 by Bloodhound Books
Huge thanks to Leigh for joining me on CrimeBookJunkie today and I wish her every success with Rachel’s Story!